How Bacteria Quickly Sense and Report on the Presence of Contaminants

Getting to know how bacteria quickly sense and report on the presence of contaminants could be the key to protecting the world's water supply. If this technology can be developed, it could be used to monitor conditions in wastewater treatment plants and rivers. It could also help scavenge energy from the environment. It could also be used to detect chemical invaders.

There are two types of contaminants that can be found in water: biological and chemical. These two categories have very different effects. While some of these contaminants are harmless, others may cause health problems. For example, metals can cause metallic tastes and stains in the water. Viruses can also cause health problems. In addition, some chemicals may be naturally occurring and others may be man-made.

For example, fecal coliform bacteria are a common indicator organism found in water. These bacteria live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and excrete waste material. In some cases, these bacteria can grow large enough to be visible. If there is a large population of these bacteria, it may indicate that the water is contaminated with feces. Similarly, high counts of these bacteria may indicate that the water is contaminated with disease-carrying organisms.

Scientists at Rice University in Houston have developed living bioelectronic sensors that can report chemical invaders within minutes. These sensors work by using an eight-component synthetic electron transport chain. They work by acting as miniature electrical switches, which give rise to a sensor signal.

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